After months of being quarantined due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many people are itching to escape from their homes and resume their pre-Corona routines. But, there are other people on the autism spectrum, however, who are experiencing anxiety about this transition back to “normal” life and the rules and policies that would come with that re-adjustment. What is the “new normal”?
A report this month from vice.com’s Culture section highlighted the concerns and anxieties experienced by many people with autism in the U.K., due to uncertainty regarding rule changes and protocols. Routine and repetition are extremely crucial to most people with autism, making the uncertainty and lack of clarity caused by Coronavirus all the more distressing.
“Now we’ve started easing the lockdown and adjusting to the new rules, different anxieties will be creeping in,” Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, was quoted as saying. “Do I have to go back to work? Should I send my child back to school? What if someone comes closer than two metres? These anxieties haven’t been helped by unclear messages about rule changes. Clarity and consistency are vital when you’re communicating with autistic people.”
Vice explained that despite its challenges, the lockdown has been beneficial for people with autism in some respects. For instance, social distancing and stay-at-home orders have made life somewhat easier for those who struggle with overstimulation, a lack of rules, and social contact.
“Coming out of lockdown I’m mostly worried about following all the rules, and others following them too,” Beth, a 23-year-old with autism, said. “Going from the comfort of my home and having everything ‘my way’ to going out and being exposed to other people doing things ‘their way’ will probably be the most difficult. I will miss being alone, and I’m worried I’ll have forgotten how to act around people.” Hannah, another young adult with autism, said she strongly prefers working from home, which has given her more control over avoiding noise and awkward social interactions.
Autistictic, an autism advocate and blogger, suggested that some of the changes have been a plus for many with autism, such as flexible workspaces, Zoom hangouts with friends, could be retained for people on the spectrum. There have also been some drawbacks that have affected people on the spectrum such as socializing and he recommends doing what you can to stay connected to people. “Because we don’t know how long this is going to go on for, we need to stay in contact with friends, family, acquaintances..”
“We need to create a new normal, one in which our most vulnerable remain protected,” the blogger was quoted as saying in Vice’s report. “To help adjust to changes, explain the changes. Provide information in a format accessible to the individual autistic person.” Marianne Eloise, the author of Vice’s report, agreed, explaining that remote working, social distancing, and altered communication can be continued for people with autism after the lockdown has lifted.
“It’s important that we maintain that flexibility,” Eloise concluded, “listening to the needs of people who require lifestyle adjustments and ensuring that they are always readily available.” She clearly states that the needs of the autistic community have been great during this time. As the lockdown lifts, it will take “listening to the needs of the people” to come out safe and secure.